After weeks of speculation over whether Matt Hancock would meet his target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of the month, the Health Secretary today had good news. He told viewers that not only had the target been met – it had been done with over 20,000 tests to spare: 122,346 tests in total were carried out yesterday.
In his comments at the press conference, Hancock appeared at times to be giving an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony. He thanked the multiple government figures, outside organisations and health workers who had made this feat possible. Given the heat Hancock has received in recent weeks both in the media and from colleagues over the target, it's understandable that he wanted to make the most of his moment of vindication.
However, there are already complaints that the figures may not be all they seem. Of the total, 40,369 were home tests that have been posted rather than sent back. While an inevitable conversation will now follow on Hancock's grasp of arithmetic, the important question is: what does the UK do with this capacity?
Inside government, there had been scepticism about the point of the 100,000 target. One Downing Street source described it as 'arbitrary' and it had not come from a Public Health England recommendation. But while the number of tests is itself not an exit strategy, it will play an important role in an eventual test and trace system – in which the UK aims to mimic the South Korean response to controlling coronavirus. That the government have managed to increase capacity across the country so quickly means that the infrastructure is in place when other parts of the scheme are eventually ready.